A ferocious media campaign, led by the Murdoch press, has been unleashed against Sydney’s Marrickville Council over a motion it passed endorsing the global campaign of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions targetting Israel. The council debated the motion, which was originally supported by all Greens and Labor Party councillors, on April 19.
Independent journalist Antony Loewnstein, author of My Israel Question, wrote on his blog: "I was present at last night’s Marrickville council meeting over BDS. It was a circus. Hundreds of people attended. Protesters, Zionists, students, unionists, Palestinians, Arabs, citizens. Countless numbers of people couldn’t fit into the council chambers (luckily I was inside for proceedings).
"In the end, the BDS didn’t succeed but in many ways this wasn’t the only issue at hand; raising the question of Palestine in a way that was being noticed locally and globally. There was passion in the room. Mayor Fiona Byrne kept her cool and has spent months bravely trying to defend BDS against a barrage of hate and lies from the Murdoch press.
"Predictably, most of the anti-BDS speakers – there were around 17 speakers and the meeting lasted for over three hours – talked in motherhood statements. Peace. Harmony. Two equal sides (Israel and Palestine). Little about occupation.
"At the last minute I was asked to speak. I focused on the realities in Palestine and Israel’s racial discrimination. This is something that impacts us all, the lack of dignity of the indigenous peoples of the land. One side is the occupier and the other is occupied. It’s not really all that complicated. This is what Zionism is.
"I spent my allotted three minutes detailing how the West props up Israel and it is our responsibility to speak up for human rights. Jewish-only roads in the West Bank. The siege on Gaza and ever-increasing settlements in the West Bank. Nearly universal backing in the UN for Palestinian rights (except Nauru, Marshall Islands, Australia, Israel and the US). As BDS takes off in countless places, the arguments against it become even further removed from Palestine itself. If you can’t argue on the facts, change the subject. Talk about local politics, or 'balance' or 'peace'.
"Last night BDS was defeated in Sydney but the message I’m hearing from countless activists is that this has galvanised people to step up the campaign for Palestinian rights. The politicians who last night didn’t vote on principle but for partisan, political reasons (also known as selling out) will not be so easily forgotten. Isn’t it about time the corporate press looked seriously into the role of the Zionist lobby in this country and how it influences public and political debate?
"It’s just beginning."
Antony Loewenstein's speech to the April 19 Marrickville Council meeting.
A range of voices offer their support to the decision to support the BDS campaign. Below, independent filmmaker and journalist John Pilger offers his support, as does the Marrickville Minsters Fellowship.
For more statements of support, see:
Prominent academics and political and cultural figures write to Marrickville Council in support of BDS
Fremantle socialist councillor’s open letter to Marrickville Council
Socialist Alliance statement
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Father Dave Smith addresses the Marricvkille Council meeting on March 15 in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel. Father Dave's speech can to the April 19 meeting can be heard here.
Marrickville priests back boycott Israel
“Marrickville Council’s push to boycott Israel has received some much-needed support, after The Marrickville Ministers’ Fellowship got behind the campaign,” the April 18 Inner West Courier said.
“As the council prepares to vote on the boycott at tomorrow night’s meeting, parish priests David Smith (Dulwich Hill) and the reverend Father John Pearce (St Brigid’s Catholic Church, Marrickville) have publicly stated that the council’s campaign is being done out of a ‘genuine concern’ for the Palestinian people.”
The statement said: “The fellowship recognises that the action of council in supporting the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel was motivated by a genuine concern for the suffering of people across Gaza and the West Bank, and in our sister city of Bethlehem in particular.
“The fellowship calls upon the council to continue to express that same concern in further practical ways, whether or not they persist with their initial commitment to the BDS campaign.’’
The statement will be submitted to the April 19 meeting, the article said.
John Pilger, independent film maker
Sometimes, looked at from the outside, Australia is a strange place.
In other “Western democracies” the “debate” about the enduring injustice dealt the Palestinians and Israel's lawlessness has moved forward to the point where the cynical campaign of anti-Semitism smears is no longer effective — in Britain, much of Europe and even the United States.
If Israel’s bloody assault on Lebanon was not the turning point, the criminal attack on the imprisoned population of Gaza certainly was. The same is true of the BDS movement.
This eminently reasonable, decent and necessary campaign enjoys a respectability across the world, not least in South Africa, where it’s backed by the likes of Desmond Tutu and especially those Jews who fought the apartheid regime.
The University of Johannesburg, one of the biggest universities in South Africa, has just broken all ties with Israel. Justice for Palestine, said, Mandela, is “the greatest moral issue of our time”.
That’s the company those Marrickville councillors who have stood up for this “greatest moral issue”, keep.
And those who have wavered and walked away should think again — remembering other waverers who, long ago, walked away from speaking out against what was being done to Jews.
The scale is very different; the principle is the same. Do not be intimidated by Murdoch vendettas or by anyone else. All power to you.